Hiring and Managing Large OFS Teams with Paul Staten:
How SEO Werkz grew to a team of almost 100 Filipino Specialists
Paul Staten is an Inc. 500 CEO and a serial entrepreneur. His online marketing company, SEO Werkz, was featured in the Inc 500 list of 2016 at #246. He currently employs 35 stateside employees and around 90 online Filipino specialists. Paul personally uses OnlineJobs.ph to fill many of the specialized OFS positions in his business and he has great advice to share with fellow entrepreneurs.
Tell us about SEO Werkz
- SEO Werkz was established in 2013. Prior to creating SEO Werkz, Paul worked in marketing and advertising, including a stint at the Yellow Pages. At one point he worked in fulfillment for a sub-par SEO company and it inspired him to create a better SEO experience for business owners. That’s when he quit his job along with his business partner and SEO Werkz was conceived.
SEO Werkz is built on three principles:
- Be transparent. They believe SEO should not be an inaccessible mysterious “black box.” SEO Werkz keeps their proposals and workload transparent to their clients.
- Get results. Delivering an ROI to their clients as soon as possible is at the top of their priority list, because that’s what generates loyalty, which is their third pillar…
- Earn loyalty. SEO Werkz doesn’t use long-term contracts. All of their contracts are month-to month, which keeps them motivated to work as effectively as possible for their clients.
- Using those three principles, they’ve grown their business from two original partners to an office of 35 employees based in Salt Lake City and 90 online specialists working from the Philippines.
- “We’ve been able to grow to where we are thanks to a webinar that John Jonas did a long time ago.”
- When Paul started SEO Werkz, he was working 80-hour workweeks doing “everything.” He was juggling the keyword research, the reports, the emails, the correspondence, the PPC campaigns and everything else (except for the web development which his partner handled).
- “I came across this webinar that John Jonas put out and he was talking about how you could hire a VA in the Philippines and he’s going to save you time.” and Paul thought, “I need time!”
- So he signed up for OnlineJobs.ph and posted a job.
What did you hire your first online Filipino specialist (OFS) to do?
- Paul originally looked for an OFS to manage keyword research, reports, drafting emails, listing management tasks and some other basic tasks. He found and hired “Mario” who saved Paul 10-15 hours a week at $320/month (this was almost a decade ago – average salary rates are higher now).
You hire A LOT of Filipino specialists. Do you primarily use OnlineJobs.ph?
- Paul hired several OFS with OnlineJobs.ph before partnering with a software company in the Philippines. The software company now coordinates many hires, but Paul still uses OnlineJobs.ph to find and hire specialized workers.
- Paul just hired another OFS using OnlineJobs.ph to help with a reputation management project. Not long ago he hired a developer on OnlineJobs.ph to help with QA tasks on his website. Before that he hired someone to manage blogging.
What’s the secret to all of your successful OFS hires?
Paul outlines his hiring method:
- First he creates a very specific job post on OnlineJobs.ph. He outlines the job’s required tasks, time expectations etc..
- Next he conducts a TYPED Skype chat interview with the qualified applicants who’ve responded to his job post.
- He has very specific questions that he asks that help him clarify what kind of worker they are and how they like to be managed. He looks for autonomous and efficient workers who can take direction and training and “run with it.”
- TIP: Paul has the questions typed and ready to go before the interviews so he can simply copy and paste them into the chat boxes. This way, he can conduct several interviews at the same time.
- He likes to use the chat to evaluate their English, though he is quick to say that some positions he hires for don’t require English proficiency (while it’s critical to other positions). Either way, a Skype chat gives him a good idea of what to expect from each applicant.
- Note: Their applications and resumes will always be in perfect English because they’ve had the chance to show it to friends/translators and really hone in the details. That chat will tell you everything you know about their raw English skills. That way, he quickly qualifies or disqualifies all of his applicants.
- Note: Paul dedicates about an hour in the morning to do Skype chat interviews and he’s noticed that the best response time is around 6:00am MST (roughly 7:00pm in the Philippines, depending on where they’re located).
- After the typed chat interview, Paul narrows down his candidates to a final 2 or 3. He then conducts a live call interview with those three. Then, based on the live call, he decides which candidate jives best with the team and then Paul hires them.
What are the most important characteristics you look for in a potential OFS?
- We touched on them earlier–self-starting, efficient, autonomous, organized, task-management oriented, NOT AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS.
- One of the questions Paul asks in his typed interview is What if there’s a task that you don’t completely understand? What do you do? The response can be very telling – some say they Google their questions and try to figure out the task on their own. Others will say, “I will ask you and see how you want it done.” That’s what Paul looks for.
Tell us about your training process
- “I am always recording videos.” Recording videos is effective because not only can your OFS go back and reference specific instructions, they can listen/watch multiple times to ensure that they understand the English instructions.
Are there positions that you feel like Filipino workers fill really well?
- They have a PPC manager who’s been with SEO Werkz for 7 years.
- Content creators
- FB manager
- SEO techs…
Paul says he doesn’t know if there’s one job over another that he can say Filipino workers excel at, because when you hire the right fit, they’re all “amazing.”
“Whenever I’m posting a job with OnlineJobs.ph I’m looking for a very specific talent and there’s just always a good fit for that specific talent.”
What’s your hiring success rate with OnlineJobs.ph?
- For the initial hires, Paul estimates their success rate is greater than 75%. But he also clarifies: “Every job we post, we eventually find someone who can fill that position, which would be 100% success rate.” They have had to deal with the occasional flaky applicant or disappearing VA, but overall the success rate is high.
You’ve talked about “very specific” questions you ask in your chat interviews when you’re hiring. Will you share some of those questions?
- “What do you enjoy most about working as a ___ (fill in the blank with the position you’re hiring)?”
- This question helps to sort out the workers who really enjoy what they do vs. those who are just trying to get a job, and that can make all of the difference in their work and attitudes.
- “How do you think your previous manager would describe you?”
- In their responses, they’ll usually highlight qualities that will give you insight into their work habits (keep in mind that they will probably be generous in the nature of their answers).
- His brilliant follow-up question is “How would your best friend describe you?”
- This follow-up should give you better insight into their personalities and how they perceive themselves.
- “What do you enjoy doing outside of work?”
- Their response will help flesh-out a picture of who they are and what’s important to them. Use this response to consider your compatibility and whether they’re a good fit for your company culture.
- “How do you like to be managed as an employee?”
- You may learn about how they prefer to be trained, the hours they prefer to work (whether they overlap into the US workday), etc…and whether it’s compatible with your own system.
You can follow Paul and learn more about his company and their services at SEOWerkz.com
And if you want to see more videos, check out our YouTube channel or our Facebook page for more outsourcing tips. You can also check out how to get started on hiring Rockstar Virtual Assistants.
About Shelane Tuttle
Shelane Tuttle has worked in content development with John Jonas and the OnlineJobs.ph team since 2010. She’s a mother of four, book devourer, beach bum, wannabe music and art connoisseur and she thrives on learning/teaching others about new things, like outsourcing.
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